Che is a new Peruvian chicken shop where Shocolate used to be. It’s good to see this space occupied after being empty for a couple of years. As more of the interior is used by bar and production, they have created a larger outdoor area that Shocolate didn’t have.

che-2 lunch at Che on Johnston St

I was impatient to try it but timing was tricky and I ended up going alone, which influenced what I ordered. I chose the pollo rollo (basically a chicken burger) and small chips, which were outstanding. The burger is good too, the apple slaw is a nice touch but it could do with more chilli as the sauce is very mild.

I’ll be back with company so I can order chicken and empanadas to share. I think Che has potential, but latin American food has a mixed history in Fitzroy. The Hispanic east end of Johnston St is over, apart from Casa Iberica, and for every enduring success story like Sonido, there is a loved but shortlived enterprise like Juanita’s or La Condesa, or a lacklustre failure like Cruzao.

Compared to most of those, this business is also acutely styled and designed – it is professional rather than homely. It’s like Jimmy Grants or Biggie Smalls – everything is slick and deliberate – which can easily leave me indifferent to the experience. I question whether sophisticated branding can lead to memorable meals. It tells me nothing about why the operators chose this theme and style of food and why they chose to open in Fitzroy.

Food tastes better when it has some authenticity based on who is making it and why. The Sri Lankan food at Pavlov’s Duck is a good example. So is the Ethiopian food at Saba’s. Or the no-fuss Turkish breakfast at Gutz, or the beautiful lunches at Neko Neko. Can Che make itself memorable and thus worthy of repeat visits?

che-1 lunch at Che on Johnston St

lunch at Che on Johnston St

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